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Interview: SIRSY

Two-man quartet


Sirsy—comprised of guitarist Rich Libutti and vocalist-drummer Melanie Krahmer—will play Record Archive on March 27 as part of  the store's Women's History Month Happy Hour series. - PHOTO BY CELIA KELLY
  • Sirsy—comprised of guitarist Rich Libutti and vocalist-drummer Melanie Krahmer—will play Record Archive on March 27 as part of the store's Women's History Month Happy Hour series.

SIRSY is powerful and strong. It’s just always been that way. The duo has unparalleled tenacity and resolve, even when living life on the road, or staring down cancer and all the uncertainty that it brings. And when cancer reared its ugly head a second time, again SIRSY emerged victorious. This band is an indestructible enigma, a lo-fi on the hi-fi, two-man quartet, an insomniac’s lullaby. It is rock ‘n’ roll.

Melanie Krahmer plays the drums, mans the Roland Trigger Pad, and belts out bolts of hooks. Her voice—christ, that voice—is strictly stratospheric, but doesn’t break up upon re-entry. Guitarist Rich Libutti plays Big Star hooks with Rick Nielsen panache.

The duo is headed this way at the end of March to close out Record Archive’s Women’s History Month Happy Hour series, which includes Anonymous Willpower on Wednesday, March 13 and Cinnamon Jones on Wednesday, March 20.

SIRSY is your favorite band, you just don’t know it yet. I was convinced when I chit-chatted with them on the phone between tour dates. What follows is an edited version of the transcript.

CITY: On your “Tiny Desk Contest” video, you intoned “I am blood, I am bone, but I am not afraid.” It struck me. What is it about?

Melanie Krahmer: That song is called “Brave and Kind.” It was a song we wrote on our last album, “Coming into Frame,” and is about the first time I went through cancer. I physically had cancer, but Richard and I went through it together.

It certainly hasn’t defined you.

Krahmer: No. It has, however, become an empowering part of my journey. When I first had cancer, I didn’t talk about it until I knew I was OK. But the second time I got it, we had to cancel a three-and-a-half month tour. I had to tell everyone why an entire West Coast tour had disappeared off our website.

I learned how empowering it was, not just for me, but all the people in our camp to go through that journey together. They really supported us. And I learned about our fans, how amazing they are, and how much that love helped me fight it the second time—and it was harder the second time. It doesn’t define me, but it definitely is a part of me.

And you’re writing about it.

Krahmer: Absolutely. This new record we’re releasing in the beginning of April, there are definitely some songs that are inspired by that, including the title track “Like a Drum.” That song was inspired by the day the doctor said I could play drums again, I could make music again. Because I wasn’t allowed to leave the house for many months. I had a lot of infections. That song is about getting back to being ourselves and what we love.

How do you attain your sound?

Rich Libutti: Well, it’s all done with smoke and mirrors. A lot of it is pretty straightforward. I play guitar and Melanie plays drums and sings. The only missing piece for us was the bass. So basically, Melanie has a Roland Trigger Pad and can play single notes and incorporate them with her beats.

Krahmer: It’s basically set up like a piano.

Libutti: And I have pedals like an organist would play. We trade off who’s covering for the bass.

Is this you being clever or is it more out of necessity?

Libutti: A little bit of both. We tried making a more traditional, four-man band work.

Krahmer: But we couldn’t find anyone as crazy as we are or who wanted to tour as much as we do.

Is “Like a Drum” your best record?

Krahmer: Of course it is. We’re really proud of it, to be honest. We worked with Grammy Award winner Paul Q. Kolderie. He produced Radiohead’s “Pablo Honey” and Hole’s “Live Through This.”

What are some standout cuts?

Krahmer: “Brave and Kind” is pretty important to me. And “Like a Drum” just makes me feel like I’m alive.

Is it tough to record you guys, what with your two-man technology?

Krahmer: We’re more traditional in the studio, I sit down and play drums, and Rick plays an actual bass, and we record the rhythm section live. Paul didn’t let us do a million takes. Just a handful so it kept that same vibe and energy that we have live. So it won’t come out too perfect.

SIRSY plays Women's History Month Happy Hour on Wednesday, March 27, 5 p.m. at Record Archive, 33 1/3 Rockwood Street. Free. 244-1210.;